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Overview Of Telecom Industry

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[pic] | |The telecom industry has been divided into two major segments, that is, fixed and wireless cellular services for this report. Besides, internet services, VAS, PMRTS and VSAT also have been discussed in brief in the report.

In today's information age, the telecommunication industry has a vital role to play. Considered as the backbone of industrial and economic development, the industry has been aiding delivery of voice and data services at rapidly increasing speeds, and thus, has been revolutionising human communication.

Although the Indian telecom industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, the current teledensity or telecom penetration is extremely low when compared with global standards. India's teledensity of 36.98% in FY09 is amongst the lowest in the world. Further, the urban teledensity is over 80%, while rural teledensity is less than 20%, and this gap is increasing. As majority of the population resides in rural areas, it is important that the government takes steps to improve rural teledensity. No doubt the government has taken certain policy initiatives, which include the creation of the Universal Service Obligation Fund, for improving rural telephony. These measures are expected to improve the rural tele-density and bridge the rural-urban gap in tele-density.

Introduction - Evolution

Indian telecom sector is more than 165 years old. Telecommunications was first introduced in India in 1851 when the first operational land lines were laid by the government near Kolkata (then Calcutta), although telephone services were formally introduced in India much later in 1881. Further, in 1883, telephone services were merged with the postal system. In 1947, after India attained independence, all foreign telecommunication companies were nationalised to form the Posts, Telephone and Telegraph (PTT), a body that was governed by the Ministry of Communication. The Indian telecom sector was entirely under government ownership until 1984, when the private sector was allowed in telecommunication equipment manufacturing only. The government concretised its earlier efforts towards developing R&D in the sector by setting up an autonomous body - Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) in 1984 to develop state-of-the-art telecommunication technology to meet the growing needs of the Indian telecommunication network. The actual evolution of the industry started after the Government separated the Department of Post and Telegraph in 1985 by setting up the Department of Posts and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

The entire evolution of the telecom industry can be classified into three distinct phases.

* Phase I- Pre-Libralisation Era (1980-89)

* Phase II- Post Libralisation Era (1990-99)

* Phase III- Post 2000

Until the late 90s the Government of India held a monopoly on all types of communications - as a result of the Telegraph Act of 1885. As mentioned earlier in the chapter, until the industry was liberalised in the early nineties, it was a heavily government-controlled and small-sized market, Government policies have played a key role in shaping the structure and size of the Telecom industry in India. As a result, the Indian telecom market is one of the most liberalised market in the world with private participation in almost all of its segments. The New Telecom Policy (NTP-99) provided the much needed impetus to the growth of this industry and set the trend for libralisation in the industry.

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Current Status

Globalisation has made telecommunication an integral part of the infrastructure of the Indian economy. The telecom sector in India has developed as a result of progressive regulatory regime.

According to the TRAI, the total gross revenue of the Indian telecom services industry was Rs 1,524 bn in FY09 up from Rs 1,291 bn in FY08 registering a growth of 18.03% over FY08 and its subscriber base grew by 43% over FY08 to touch 429.70 mn subscribers in FY09.

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The telecom sector in India experienced a rapid growth over the past decade on account of regulatory libralisation, structural reforms and competition, making telecom one of the major catalysts in India's growth story. However, much of this growth can be attributed to the unprecedented growth in mobile telephony as the number of mobile subscribers grew at an astounding rate from 10 million in 2002 to 392 million in 2009. Besides, the growth in the service and IT and ITeS sector also increased the prominence of the telecom industry in India. Telecom has emerged as a key infrastructure for economic and consumer growth because of its multiplier effect and the fact that it is beneficial to trade in other industries. The contribution of the sector to GDP has been increasing gradually (its contribution in GDP has more than doubled to 2.83% in FY07 from 1.0% in FY92).

Telecom is one of the fastest-growing industries in India; on an average the industry added 8 million wireless subscribers every month in FY08. The government had set a target of 500 million telecom connections by 2010. However, according to the TRAI, the total subscriber base (wireless and wireline) in the industry crossed the 500-mn-mark and reached 509.03 mn by the end of September 2009, which took India to the second position in terms of wireless network in the world next only to China. Prior to liberalisation, the telecom sector was monopolised by the public sector and recorded marginal growth; in fact, during 1948-1998, the incremental teledensity in the country was just 1.92%. However, the introduction of NTP'99 accelerated the growth of the sector and the teledensity increased from 2.33 in 1999 to 36.98 in 2009; however, much of this growth was brought about by the NTP-99 policy changes such as migration from fixed license fee to revenue sharing regime and cost-oriented telecom tariffs. From 2003 onwards the government has taken certain initiatives such as unified access licensing regime, reduced access deficit, introduction of calling party pays (CPP) and revenue sharing regime in ADC that has provided further impetus to the sector.

The Indian telecom industry is characterised with intense competition, and continuous price wars. Currently, there are around a dozen telecom service providers who operate in the wired and wireless segment. The government has been periodically implementing suitable fiscal and promotional policies to boost domestic demand and to create volumes for the industry.

The Indian telecom industry has immense growth potential as the teledensity in the country is just 36 as compared with

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